These are no longer the days of Lester Pearson, when peacekeeping was a matter of watching a quiet ceasefire line or supervising a recognized international border.
Most peacekeeping now is about trying to minimize bloodshed and create pockets of order in the midst of grim, intractable civil wars.
But in the 2015 election, the Liberals were eager for Canada to return to the glory days of Pearsonian peacekeeping, the better to strike a contrast with the Conservatives. So promise peacekeeping they did.
Harjit Sajjan, the Minister of Defence, is a former soldier who served several multiple tours in a war – Afghanistan. He is no naïf. But he is taking very seriously the government's desire to "support United Nations peace operations," and he is hinting that he will make "certain visits" on the ground, to find a mission for Canada to take part in. There is a sense that the Liberal government is searching for an international trouble spot into which it can send Canadian soldiers – sorry, peacekeepers – thereby satisfying the psychological needs of many voters.
Peacekeeping missions under consideration include Mali, the Central African Republic and Colombia.
The long, horrendous civil war in Colombia may actually be winding down. But the proposed African missions could prove to be no easier than Canada's difficult, deadly experience in Afghanistan.
Mali is an extremely dangerous country, where at least 53 peacekeepers have died. The Central African Republic has been similarly chaotic for years. This is the region where the distinguished Canadian civil servant Robert Fowler came very close to death.
Mr. Sajjan and Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion should think long and hard about what Canada can realistically do, and how much Canadian blood risks being spilled in the doing, before sending soldiers into harm's way in the most difficult parts of Africa.